I'm new to the world of oral contraceptives. I've done my homework and understand how they work, but one thing remains a mystery. What is withdrawal bleeding?
If a woman does not experience real menstruation while on the pill, because ovulation does not occur and neither does the thickening of uterine lining, then why do the pharmaceutical companies feel a need to put in the "bleeding period" into their products? From what I understand, the uterine lining is kept quite thin because of the lack of hormonal fluctuations and there is no benefit to this pseudo-menstruation.
Aside from my anger at the way both gynecologists and the makers of the pills call this bleeding a "period" (very misleading), I want to understand what they are talking about. Many claim that taking the pill reduces menstrual side effects such as PMS and cramps, etc. But what on earth is there to reduce if there is no menstruation in the first place?!
I feel I've been lied to by these sources and don't feel well informed at all. Does anyone really understand what's going on and is willing to give an honest answer? Thank you.
Well, you do have a period every month on birth control. It's just lighter and doesn't last as long as a normal period would. I have no idea about what they're talking about if they say it's not a period. The uterus lining is not completely gone so it will shed every month.
The reason why it's not a real period is because it doesn't start for the same reason your period starts when you're not on birth control.
When you're not on birth control, your body naturally starts the cycle process a certain number of days before ovulation begins. The unfertilized egg is washed away with the uterine lining during the period, all of which is regulated by the pituitary gland and most of all your HORMONES. Your hormones regulate all of that stuff from day 1-28 (give or take a few days depending on the cycle). It's all a natural body function which is how it differs from when you are on the pill.
On the pill, you don't start your period because of natural hormonal fluctuations and signals. Instead, when you're on the pill, your body is tricked into thinking it's pregnant because of the hormones in the pill. Your body, thinking it's pregnant, allegedly doesn't ovulate. But then your placebo week comes. The half life of a birth control pill is something like 72 hours or something. So once your level of hormones drop enough, that is what triggers the uterus to shed the lining, thereby you get your period. It's still a period but it's a fake period because it doesn't start due to your body's natural time clock, instead it was brought on by the pill causing a dip in hormone level enough to trigger the bleeding.
That's also the reason why, when women skip pills and take them too far apart or whatever, they start having breakthrough bleeding or spotting. At that point, their hormone levels are all weirded out by the skipping that it triggers the bleeding to start at the wrong time.
It all makes a lot of sense if you think about it.
I've been wondering the same thing... and Tivo explains it well. I still don't understand why PMS still happens though. I've often thought about taking packs back to back so I don't bleed but a week before placebo week I still get sore breasts and little tummy cramps to signal it's nearly time for bleed... I always think twice at this point when taking packs back to back because my body seems geared up for a period. It doesn't really make sense to me.